Pre-pandemic, 89% of consumers wanted to communicate with businesses using messaging, but less than half of businesses were equipped to connect with customers in this basic digital format. Among the less devastating consequences of COVID-19 is the acceleration of digital transformations across all industries. But which digital experiences matter the most for retail services? And are these new customer interactions here to stay? 

Kristina Stidham, Digital Content Manager for Total Retail and the Women in Retail Leadership Circle; Doug Regener, Vice President of Enterprise at Podium; and Rob Lawson, Partnerships, Business Messages at Google come together in the Total Retail Virtual Exchange to discuss digital strategies for retailers to implement in 2021 and beyond. Each tactic will help connect customers with companies and contribute to an effective, convenient, and sustainable model of business.

Read on for the 5 takeaways from this discussion:

1. Use messaging solutions to meet the needs of modern customers.

80% of businesses report that they want to start using chatbots this year. Chatbots, Webchat, texting, Google Messaging, and a plethora of other messaging solutions enable retail businesses to provide 24/7 service for customers, real-time and instant responses to common questions, and all without staffing employees or contract workers. The end result? A better, more personal experience for customers in-store. While automated responses are providing customers with the answers they need (still in a personal, positive way), associates are free to help and focus on the people who are ready to convert in the store. Some questions need a human response, and the transition from a chatbox to a person can be seamless. But either way, messaging solutions can facilitate positive experiences for customers online and in-person.

2. Keep up with local search engine results.

There’s no real secret or trick to hack the Google algorithm. Google is trying to provide customers with the most appropriate and relevant results for their search query. Retailers can rank well for potential customers by providing detailed information about the services and products it provides; keeping content fresh; responding to reviews; having a high rating; responding to messages; being present, responsive, and quick for users. Take care of these things online—especially on your Google My Business listing—and Google will do the work of directing qualified leads for you. 

3. Make it easy for customers to convert.

Companies like Amazon and DoorDash have changed consumer expectations. And if we learn anything from their innovations, it should be that business needs to be easy for your customers. First, as previously mentioned, make your store accessible on Google. From there, focus on providing excellent experiences that help customers move through the conversion funnel and into your store (perhaps through texting, video chat, or mobile payments). Interacting with customers in the ways that are convenient for them (during and after the pandemic) will help build a strong customer-business relationship that is mutually beneficial. This way, customers can be as close as one interaction or one click from converting.

4. Engage customers throughout the entire journey.

Begin by meeting customers where they are in their natural paths. Peer-to-peer, customers tend to interact in this “ongoing, asynchronous, multi-threaded” way. Communicating with a business shouldn’t be so far outside of this realm of comfort and preference for customers. Right from the first Google search, your store locations can use a blend of bots, automated messages, and human interactions to engage with customers throughout their journey. Customers can message your store directly from your Google My Business listing and become a saved contact in their phone as you continue to answer questions and ask about their experience post-purchase. Texting is critical in developing this type of ongoing customer-business relationship. These interactions could look like texts from customers asking, “Is my curbside pickup order ready?” or a check-in from your business a few days after initial contact: “Hey, good news, your shoes are back in stock.”

5. Think omnichannel customer communication. 

If you can really deliver on great experiences and relationships with customers from the get-go, they may never need to go to a competitor again. The goal is to enable customers to communicate with your stores in ways that are best for them. But with Google Business Chat, Apple Business Chat, texting, Facebook Messaging, WhatsApp, and even more channels of communication that customers use, it can be a task to streamline and manage. Fortunately, that’s where technology and software like Podium can help you manage all your communications from one platform so it’s easy for your customers and your business.

Ready for more? Read The Complete Guide to Modern Customer Communication here.

Jason A’alona
Jason A’alona Director of Retail Sales

Jason A’alona is a retail professional at Podium, the leading messaging platform that connects consumer businesses with their customers.

Adapt the way you do business. Press send.